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Moti Mahal, Covent Garden WC2

Clifford Mould enjoyed some fine Indian cuisine

When you walk into Moti Mahal, you wouldn't think you were in an Indian restaurant - its chic minimalist contemporary style is mainstream London trendy. The tables are beautifully laid with fine glassware and napery and when the food comes out it is carefully presented on a succession of well designed china and glass. The menu, by most Indian restaurant standards is relatively short. You won't find words like vindaloo sprinkled about, but you might find Kashmir Gaadh, which of course is none other than your grilled sea bass with fennel, ginger and smoked chillies, spiced potato mash, green lip mussel and lime leaf broth - didn't we know that all the time. But seriously, Head chef Anirudh Arora's menu is full of carefully crafted invention, always springing from authentic Indian regional roots but mingling European culinary skills to create some memorable dishes.

Expect to find most modern fusion amongst the starters, where Chef Arora has really given full rein to his creative skills. Particularly delicious was Murghi Nazakat, which was clove smoked grilled chicken breast with a salad of spiced chicken liver and caramelised figs. I had the Sagar Rattan which was perfectly seared scallops, glazed with tamarind essence and delicately spiced with onion seeds and stems of coriander. It was accompanied by a round baby aubergine stuffed with crab meat. Both the execution and presentation of both these dishes showed off the in-depth skills of this kitchen.

For his main course my guest had the breast of guinea fowl sliced across to reveal a centre that was expertly stuffed with spinach and chestnut. Underneath was a delicately spiced onion curry. I had a rabbit dish brought to the table in its sealed copper cooking pot. The tender meat had been stewed in a creamy sauce flavoured with morels and mint. The traditional accompaniments of rice, flatbreads and dal all had little touches that raised their game above the ordinary 

Desserts are often a disappointment in Asian restaurants, but today was an exception. We enjoyed two ice creams that were really quite spectacular: an indulgently creamy kulfi and an intensely flavoured ice made with sloe gin. No doubt the British brought sloe gin to India along with cricket - chota peg!

Starters around £7.50; mains around  £16.00; desserts £6.00. The Pre-theatre and lunch menus look interesting and sensibly priced at £15.00 each. There is an excellent wine list with some 150 wines and there is an expert bartender to mix your favourite cocktails.

Dine Online highly recommends Moti Mahal for sophisticated modern Indian cuisine.

Moti Mahal, 45 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AA
Open every day except Sundays – lunch 12 to 3.00 pm; dinner 5.30 pm to 11.30 pm

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